Jonathan Mugers $500,000 The Basketball Tournament (TBT) hoops extravaganza began in Philadelphia in 2014. It was an ambitious idea by a guy who played modest Division III hoops at Tufts University in Boston, truly respected the game and thought of a way to stay involved and help the sport grow.
ESPN execs were watching.
By the time The Shadow League interviewed him in 2015, Muger had just signed a TV deal with the sports cable giant to air his tournament.
When we started playing and they saw that it was for real and players started showing up and the ones that were showing up were really good, they reached out and said, What are you doing with the final game? We said, Nothing, and they wanted to stream it through ESPN3, Muger told TSL March of 2015.
So we did that. We put the championship game on June 28, 2014. It was a great game and Notre Dame Fighting Alumni won and ESPN had a great experience with it so we began to talk about bringing the tourney to TV in 2015.
Flashback to the 2014 TBT Championship game between the Fighting Irish Alumni and team Barstool.
TBTs association with ESPN put them on the global radar. When Mugers winning purse rose to $1 million dollars in 2015, more high-profile ballers started coming to get that paper. The winning purse hit $2 million last year. Now the 2017 TBT extravaganza has more than 40 ex-NBA players participating in the 5-on-5, winner-take-all event. The semifinals and championship will be held on Aug. 1 and Aug. 3 in Baltimore and televised on ESPN.
Uploaded by Sports & News on 2016-08-03.
This is the fourth season for TBT. One major headliner for the tournament in terms of players is former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden, who will be playing with Scarlet & Gray on a team made up of fellow Ohio State alumni.
It will be great to see the once-heralded NBA prospect turned tragic victim of injury balling again for a purpose.
Also, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard will be coaching a team of Weber State alums. Other current NBA players coaching teams include Wes Matthews, Darren Collison and the Morris twins — Markieff and Marcus.
“It’s just an honor and fun to see so many of my former friends and teammates coming together again years later to achieve that common goal,” Lillard said, per ESPN. “This tournament has given people who choose to compete in it an opportunity to be on a big stage for a life-changing reward.”
Two-time defending champion Overseas Elite will go for a third straight title. The team, comprised of former college players now playing overseas, split the $1 million prize two years ago and the $2 million purse last year. The team features Errick McCollum, older brother of Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.
Errick McCollum and Overseas Elite have captured back-to-back TBT titles. Returning to TBT 2017, they are an easy favorite. Do they get the respect they deserve? In a 2016 press conference, McCollum provides his sentiments on the matter.
Lots of colleges have also entered alumni teams like Syracuse, Villanova and Gonzaga. In 2015, Munger expanded to four regions across the country; Northeast, South, Midwest and a West region.
The original inspiration for the tournament, which has grown from 32 teams in that first season to 64 this year, is March Madness.
I love that event and the idea is…Why cant you basically do a March Madness-style tournament, open it up to anyone and put it on a professional level?, Muger told TSL back in 2015. So it reflects the high stakes of March Madness and its also about accessibility in giving fans an opportunity to create a franchise from scratch each year and play the part of a team owner or general manager or even play.
With all of the street ball tournaments and Pro Am games that go down during the summer, Muger’s TBT stands out because he bridged the social media explosion with the fact that everyone loves basketball and believes they can play it at a high level.
There’s been no shortage of doubters over the years, from the highest and most powerful places you can imagine. We let our players & fans do the talking. TBT 2017. $2,000,000. Winner takes all. Single Elimination. Championship Game August 3 in Baltimore. Fans of the winners take home $200,000.
Another interesting aspect of this tournament is how the prize money is divided. The fans who voted online to help this team get into the tournament also get paid when the team wins. 64 teams (16 in each region) will play for the cash. The top nine (9) vote-getters in each region get in automatically.
(Two million dollars) goes to the team and a percentage of that goes to the fan group of the winning team, Muger said.A teams ability to get into the tournament is contingent upon them recruiting enough fans, so fans are a big part of these teams and thats the message there. We want to reward fans as much as the players.